A top White House official said Thursday that a bipartisan proposal to give legal status to younger illegal immigrants is too weak on border security and immigration reform to pass muster with President Donald Trump.
The agreement trades some border security enhancements, plus some limits on family migration and the diversity visa lottery, for a path to citizenship for recipients of the now-cancelled Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
But Marc Short, the White House legislative director, said the bill would need more work before Trump could endorse it.
“There’s a long way to go,” Short told reporters, according to the Wall Street Journal.
A group of six senators — Jeff Flake of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Robert Menendez of New Jersey, and Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner of Colorado — has been working to craft a DACA deal that could win 60 votes in the Senate and meet Trump’s demands for border wall funding and changes to immigration law. Their proposal comes a day after House Republicans unveiled a sweeping DACA bill that was applauded by the administration but declared a nonstarter by Democrats.
Flake, Graham and other senators pitched their bill Thursday at a last-minute meeting with Trump at the White House. The move was not well received by many other Senate Republicans, who have not had a chance to review details of the proposal.
While the text of the agreement has yet to be published, Flake revealed several provisions of the deal in an interview with the Daily Beast. The deal includes a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients after a 12-year conditional period. It would allow certain groups of illegal immigrants such as Salvadorans and Haitians to access the diversity visa lottery program if they have received Temporary Protected Status.
Crucially, the bill would give DACA recipients the ability to sponsor their relatives for legal status, but not citizenship. Flake described that provision as mitigating chain migration.
“The covered population — the parents who brought their kids across the border illegally — would not be able to access a citizenship track by virtue of their children,” he told the Daily Beast. “So we’ve cut chain migration with regard to the covered population.”
Flake’s bill also includes $2.7 billion for border security, including Trump’s $1.6 billion request for border wall construction and $1.1 billion for security infrastructure and technology, reports Politico. That figure is far short of the border security funding outlined in the House GOP bill, which calls for $30 billion in funding over a decade, with $18 billion of that set aside for the wall.
Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, who was in the White House meeting, told reporters that bipartisan Senate proposal is “unacceptable” because of it its weak provisions on chain migration and the green card lottery.
“It doesn’t end chain migration,” Cotton said, according to the Washington Post. “It merely delays it for an extremely small class of persons. On the diversity lottery, it simply takes all those visas and gives them away to other people for no rhyme or reason, it doesn’t just end the diversity lottery.”
Republican Sen. David Perdue of Georgia, who together with Cotton leads the conservative immigration reform wing of the GOP, also said the bipartisan agreement as written is a nonstarter.
“Today I went to the White House to stand firm with President Trump … We’ve been crystal clear: chain migration must end, period.” Perdue said. “Any solution the Senate will consider must include ending chain migration.”
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